October 3, 2007

Ruth Marcus, Cherry-Picking

Ruth Marcus picks up the cudgel left by Anita Hill's earlier rebuttal to the memoirs of Clarence Thomas and tries to score a few points in today's Washington Post. Claiming that "Clarence Thomas is no victim", Marcus underscores her belief in Hill's version of events. She points to what she sees as corroborating evidence in the testimony of three witnesses to the Judiciary Committee hearing, claiming that Thomas deliberately omitted evidence from his account (via Bench Memos):

First, Hill did not wait 10 years to complain about his behavior. Susan Hoerchner, a Yale Law School classmate of Hill's, described how she complained of sexual harassment while working for Thomas, saying the EEOC chairman had "repeatedly asked her out . . . but wouldn't seem to take 'no' for an answer." Ellen Wells, a friend, said Hill had come to her, "deeply troubled and very depressed," with complaints about Thomas's inappropriate behavior. John Carr, a lawyer, said that Hill, in tears, confided that "her boss was making sexual advances toward her." American University law professor Joel Paul said Hill had told him in 1987 that she had left the EEOC because she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.

Marcus is being disingenuous in this passage. She waited 10 years before taking action, which seems very strange indeed for someone who claimed to have been so traumatized. That was the objection to her wait for complaint -- and that time did damage to any intention of seeking the truth, because as any lawyer will know, waiting 10 years to take testimony or depositions makes them much less reliable, not more so.

Besides, Marcus leaves out some testimony herself. For instance, J.C. Alvarez flew back to Washington to testify a second time in front of the panel, because she could not believe her eyes and ears when Hill testified. Alvarez, who worked in the same office at the same time, had a few choice words for the panel:

No, Senators, I cannot stand by and watch a group of thugs beat up and rob a man of his money any more than I could have stayed in Chicago and stood by and watched you beat up an innocent man and rob him blind. Not of his money. That would have been too easy. You could pay that back. No, you have robbed a man of his name, his character, and his reputation.

And what is amazing to me is that you didn't do it in a dark alley and you didn't do it in the dark of night. You did it in broad daylight, in front of all America, on television, for the whole world
to see. Yes, Senators, I am witnessing a crime in progress and I cannot just look the other way.

Alvarez had more to say about her recollection of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas:

On Friday, she played the role of a meek, innocent, shy Baptist girl from the South who was a victim of this big, bad man.

I don't know who she was trying to kid. Because the Anita Hill that I knew and worked with was nothing like that. She was a very hard, tough woman. She was opinionated. She was arrogant. She was a relentless debater. And she was the kind of woman who always made you feel like she was not going to be messed with, like she was not going to take anything from anyone.

Somehow Marcus failed to mention this testimony in her recollections of her coverage as a journalist. Nor does she recall the fact that Ted Kennedy tried to shut down the panel of witnesses on which Alvarez sat just after her scathing opening remarks. It led to an argument that lasted several minutes. When Alvarez got the opportunity to continue, she told them she knew what sexual harassment was, and how it made her feel about the men who conducted it:

You see, I, too, have experienced sexual harassment in the past. I have been physically accosted by a man in an elevator who I rebuffed. I was trapped in a xerox room by a man who I refused to date. Obviously, it is an issue I have experienced, I understand, and I take very seriously.

But having lived through it myself, I find Anita Hill's behavior inconsistent with these charges. I can assure you that when I come into town, the last thing I want to do is call either of these two men up and say hello or see if they want to get together. To be honest with you, I can hardly remember their names, but I can assure you that I would never try and even maintain a cordial relationship with either one of them. Women who have really been harassed would agree, if the allegations were true, you put as much distance as you can between yourself and that other person.

What's more, you don't follow them to the next job—especially, if you are a black female, Yale Law School graduate. Let's face it, out in the corporate sector, companies are fighting for women with those kinds of credentials.

Alvarez said this about Thomas:

The Clarence Thomas I knew and worked with was also not who Anita Hill alleges. Everyone who knows Clarence, knows that he is a very proud and dignified man. With his immediate staff, he was very warm and friendly, sort of like a friend or a father. You could talk with him about your problems, go to him for advice, but, like a father, he commanded and he demanded respect. He demanded professionalism and performance, and he was very strict about that.

Nancy Fitch, who also worked in the same office at the same time and with Thomas for nine years, had this to say about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas:

There is no way Clarence Thomas—CT—would callously venally hurt someone. A smart man, concerned about making a contribution to this country as a public official, recognizing the gravity and weightiness of his responsibilities and public trust, a role model and mentor who would, by his life and work, show the possibilities in America for all citizens given opportunity, well, would a person such as this, Judge Clarence Thomas would never ever make a parallel career in harassment, ask that it not be revealed and expect to have and keep his real career. And I know he did no such thing.

He is a dignified, reserved, deliberative, conscientious man of great conscience, and I am proud to be at his defense.

Diane Holt worked closely with Anita Hill at the DoE and EEOC as his personal secretary for six years. She developed a friendly relationship with Hill, and never heard a word about harassment:

Both Ms. Hill and I were excited about the prospect of transferring to the EEOC. We even discussed the greater potential for individual growth at this larger agency. We discussed and expressed excitement that we would be at the right hand of the individual who would run this agency.

When we arrived at the EEOC, because we knew no one else there, Professor Hill and I quickly developed a professional relationship, a professional friendship, often having lunch together. At no time did Professor Hill intimate, not even in the most subtle of ways, that Judge Thomas was asking her out or subjecting her to the crude, abusive conversations that have been described. Nor did I ever discern any discomfort, when Professor Hill was in Judge Thomas' presence.

Additionally, I never heard anyone at any time make any reference to any inappropriate conduct in relation to Clarence Thomas.

Now let's go to the record of another Post journalist, written at the time of the confirmation hearings. Juan Williams had reported on the EEOC and Department of Education during the tenure of Thomas, and had written extensively on his work in government. As it turns out, Williams asked Hill to comment on Thomas before the hearings, and got a very different answer (emphases mine):

But that fair process and the intense questioning Thomas faced in front of the committee for over a week were not enough for members of the staffs of Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Howard Metzenbaum. In addition to calls to me and to people at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they were pressing a former EEOC employee, University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill, for negative information about Thomas. Thomas had hired Hill for two jobs in Washington.

Hill said the Senate staffers who calied her were specifically interested in talking about rumors involving sexual harassment. She had no credible evidence of Thomas's involvement in any sexual harassment, but she was prompted to say he had asked her out and mentioned pornographic movies to her. She rejected him as a jerk, but said she never felt her job was threatened by him, he never touched her, and she followed him to subsequent jobs and even had him write references for her.

Hill never filed any complaint agahst Thomas; she never mentioned the problem to reporters for The Post during extensive interviews this summer after the nomination, and even in her statement to the FBI never charged Thomas with sexual harassment but "talked about [his] behavior."

It's clear that Kennedy and Metzenbaum and their staffs created this smear, just as Thomas says in his book, in order to get him to withdraw his name from contention. Not only did they seek out Hill, they coached her what to say and when to say it. The woman who called Thomas several times between her departure from the EEOC and his marriage in 1987 had nothing to say to Post reporters when first asked about Thomas' nomination.

These are other items of evidence that Marcus omits from her review of the Thomas case. As a journalist, shouldn't she be interested in all of the evidence? Shouldn't she ask herself the same question that Alan Simpson asked Judge Susan Hoerchner, a completely hearsay witness, at the end of her testimony?

So, here is, this foul, foul stack of stench, justifiably offensive in any category, that she was offended, justifiably, embarrassed, justifiably, and that she was repelled, justifiably. And I ask you why, then, after she left his power, after she left his presence, after she left his influence and his domination or whatever it was that gave her fear—and call it fear or revulsion or repulsion—why did she twice after that visit personally with him in Tulsa, OK, had dinner with him in the presence of others, had breakfast with him in the presence of others, rode to the airport alone with him in the presence of no one, and we have 11 phone calls initiated by her from 1984 through the date of Clarence Thomas' marriage to Ginni Lamp, and then it all ended and not a single contact came forward.

It all adds up to a deliberate character assassination campaign. If one looks at all of the evidence, as Marcus insists, one cannot come to any other conclusion. Only when people cherry-pick for hearsay testimony and one witness who had an axe to grind against Thomas for firing her can one believe Hill's version of events.


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